Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Charles Dickens’

Literature in Britain Today

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 5th March, 2017

j-k-rowlingrsl-logoLiterature does not enjoy the same status in Britain as it does just over the Channel in France, for example. Maybe that partly explains why politicians are far more eager to talk about football in public than about books. Yet a new survey published by the Royal Society for Literature (RSL) this week suggests that three quarters of the British public does read literature (they were allowed to define for themselves what is meant by “literature”) and a significant proportion would like to be able to read more. More women than men consume literature, as apparently do white British rather than ethnic minorities; the fact that more highly educated Brits read more than those with minimal qualifications is hardly surprising. The most common reason given for not reading more is lack of time, though some people said they wished books were cheaper — a problematic response for the RSL as writers need to be able to make a decent living if literature is going to continue to be produced. In reality, according to an earlier survey carried out for the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) writers’ annual incomes have fallen in recent years, to an average of just £11,000. The general public is more aware that a few authors such as J.K.Rowling earn millions, which is the exception rather than the rule. Interestingly, Harry Potter’s creator figured third behind Shakespeare and Dickens in the list of authors cited by respondents to the RSL survey as being “literature”. Otherwise that list of writers was encouraging eclectic, including a sizable proportion of foreign writers. But for me the single most encouraging thing about the RSL survey’s findings was that far from reducing people’s interest in reading literature, using the Internet seems to stimulate it.

 

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Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 7th February, 2012

The winter chill this evening was positively Dickensian, but there was much warmth, wine and laughter at that Chelsea New Curiosity Shop, the BookHaus, where author Peter Clark launched his latest work Dickens’s London under the benign direction of publisher Barbara Schwepcke. One of her young staff engagingly juggled clementines while reminding us of Dickens’s memoir of the world’s first white-faced clown, Joseph Grimaldi. Clark’s book, a slim volume that comfortably slips into a jacket pocket, takes as its starting point a volume the author found on Dickens Walks in London by a chap in the 1890s, allowing Clark to muse about the places along the walks at the time of Dickens, in the 1890s and now. Dickens was not the most charming of men — he treated his wife pretty abominably — but his power of evocative description was second to none. As a fine journalist and chronicler, he was able to invent unforgetable characters, and attach memorable names to them. I read most of Dickens while I was at school — I wonder how many boys or girls do so today? — though I have never gone back to him. But his bicentenary is bound to create a new burst of appreciation for his novels, as well as a mountain of new biographies (including one by my friend Simon Callow) and studies, of which James Clark’s seems set to be one of the most endearing.

Link: http://www.hauspublishing.com

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